Tuesday 3 November 2015

A place in the country by WG Sebald

Two hours in a doctor's waiting room with under sixes playing onscreen games in their silver space boots, swinging pink backpacks and screaming as they are inducted into the world of blood tests and anxiety.

And a door banged and banged.

After that I need reading as pooling, reading without reading, listening to Schubert songs sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, a fire lighting, I inhabit those sentences and sensibilities without scanning the pages, the book open beside me enough to stay an island in the Lac de Bienne where Rousseau stayed, and, a hundred years later, Sebald; to sit outside the house on the river where Kleist stayed, stand in the snow with Robert Walser, float in a balloon with Nabokov over a sleeping Germany.

Reading without reading; I nearly know what that would be in Finnish.

I was rebuked age 20 for reading for pearls, and for the musical equivalent, waiting for the good bit, the tip into the minor key, for example, then waiting for the repeat. Landing stage and launch at once. As Winterreise dips and reaches, so does Sebald in his sentences. I was rebuked, later, age 50 perhaps, for not knowing exactly what Fischer-Dieskau is saying/singing, for not knowing the poem. I understand about 20 percent of the words, the rest is my own, or, if Sebald is open beside me, his.

I have read Sebald and he has read Walser, as I have; and Hebel, Mörike, and Keller, whom I haven't, but I have spent time in Keller's Ideal Landscape with Trees, a third of which one of his women friends carefully cut away, following the contours of the trees. Reading and not reading Sebald, knowing and not knowing the words of Schubert songs is life as I understand it best. This is music to my ears, the shorter music of German word endings and the longer music of Schubert.

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